Jari-Matti Latvala took the Rally Germany lead as his Volkswagen team-mate Sebastien Ogier crashed out on the final stage of day one.
Ogier and Latvala had been locked in an intense battle for victory, with the Frenchman edging his lead over five seconds on the first stage of the afternoon before Latvala chipped a tenth back on the next run.
Then on the Moselland stage, which was delayed over half an hour by crowd issues, Ogier slid off the road and plunged through the surrounding vineyards.
Although he was unhurt and his VW was essentially undamaged, Ogier was unable to get back on the road and had to retire from leg one. He should return, with 10 minutes of time penalties, under Rally 2 for Saturday.
Ogier's mistake handed Latvala a comfortable lead, with second-placed Kris Meeke's Citroen 37 seconds behind.
Meeke is only 5.6s ahead of flying Hyundai driver Dani Sordo, who was second to Latvala on SS6 to move back ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen's VW, which had briefly nipped in front mid-afternoon.
Meeke, Sordo and Mikkelsen are covered by 8.6s going into day two.
Thierry Neuville is running fifth in the Hyundai rebuilt after his massive shakedown crash. The car filled with smoke on the final stage due to overheating in the exhaust section, but the crew were able to continue back to service.
Neuville is just 1.9s ahead of Mikko Hirvonen, with Elfyn Evans and a low-key Mads Ostberg also in the battle for fifth.
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Leading positions after SS6:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 59m36.8s
2. Kris Meeke Citroen +37.0s
3. Dani Sordo Hyundai +42.6s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +45.6s
5. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +53.1s
6. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +55.0s
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +1m00.2s
8. Mads Ostberg Citroen +1m01.9s
9. Bryan Bouffier Hyundai +1m35.6s
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +2m07.1s